Sunday, March 29, 2009

The great unifier

Nothing unites us like a common enemy. Think about it, and a great deal of truth about human existence comes forward. Two individuals, who may hardly be in good terms often come together once they get a common enemy. Long ago it was the Britishers on our soil which united the much divided people of this country against them. Much before than, in times of monarchy it was the enemies of the kingdom which kept the flock together. Thousands of years ago, it was the nature and the wildlife which kept the humans together.

Why only humans? Take the case of animals like deer in the forest that often stay together for there is a fear of being hunted by some bigger enemy like a lion or a tiger. There might be some cohesiveness because of similarities among themselves but it becomes secondary given the fear of something bigger, something that threatens the basic existence.

This common enemy factor may be of different magnitudes, in different shapes and sizes. It might be a big movement or something or something small in day to day lives. It might just be about that annoying neighbor, the big boss in the office or that person in the society who is a big time hypocrite and even, some elements in the system or something much larger - of the likes that can trigger political movements! In social circles, in tea parties, over a coffee table, over a few drinks, in a chit chat over a phone call most of the casual conversation often veers towards one topic - it is about people, and often about the things they don't like about them. It is talk about people and bitching about them that gives immense satisfaction and at times purpose and direction to life. For many, purpose of life is to be happy, and it is cribbing and bitching that gives this supreme sense of satisfaction. Maybe, this sense of loving to be against something is one of the fundamental human emotion, without which they will cease to exist

Take the case of politics. An age old principle of Divide & Rule has always been exploited to maximum by the political parties. When there are not any issues, then they have been created. If the issues were not that big, they have been made big so that it becomes easy to pull people together against some issue. One of the recent incidents can be the case of Varun Gandhi attempting to create a common 'enemy' to unite people. 'Uniting' people is in this case a euphemism for garnering votes. Same has been used in 2002 (Gujarat), 1992(Barbri Masjid), 1984 (general Elections). Similar rhetoric (but in much larger magnitude is being used by likes of Osama Bin Laden against western world and western world against Osama.

And this continues, and we stay divided, yet united against a set of common enemies.

If this is the case, will we ever be able to stand up together? Will we ever imagine that the world will be as one, as John Lennon said? Maybe, we would need some extra terrestrial attack to unify us! Or maybe, it can be nature which has been so much used and abused! Who knows! Let us just wait and watch and till then ... fight among ourselves!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Election Time

With the clouds of elections and subsequently, polity in post-election times looming large it is again a time for all those false promises and assurances, of trying a million permutations and combinations to reach that coveted number, of mud slinging and infighting, of big ticket bargains and compromises ... and of course hope and dreams of a better future. In about ten weeks or so it will be clear who will rule the country for time to come (... if that time is 5 years remains to be seen!). Will the incumbents be back in power or the PM in waiting becomes the PM ... or we'll see emergences of the opportunistic alliance called "The Third Front".

Meanwhile the fight between the two largest parties reminds me of a cover page story in The Economist during the 2004 US Presidential elections - "Incompetent v/s Incoherent".

Personally, I think it is a contest between two alliances - one not having a great track record during its last five years in power against an alliance which seems to be having a dearth of leaders (barring a few!) and clear policies to take the country forward. One one side we have a bunch of sycophants while on other side we have a group of people some of whose actions can earn a label of "religious fanatics".

Whatever be my take on these two alliances, about my likes and dislikes ... I believe that these are still the best two options to lead the country. God knows, what will happen to the country if "The Third Front" wins and we have someone like Mayawati or Dewe Gowda or Prakash Karat as the PM !!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

DevD

One of the most intriguing characters of Indian literature and one of the famousest loser has now been reborn as Dev D. He is a modern day Punjabi and his focus area has shifted from east to north India - all thanks to Anurag Kashyap and Abhay Deol combo (Two guys who have made a reputation of being offbeat) This movie has generated lot of buzz thanks to its emossional atyaachar, references to MMS controversy among others. Also, this is one of the movies in recent past to have got probably the widest range of reviews - from 1 star to 5 star ratings, from awesome to shockingly bad with people debating endlessly about morality aspect of various things shown in it. Here is my take on the movie which I watched on 14th Feb in a 9 : 45 AM show in a nearby cinema!

I loved the movie while watching, and few weeks later I am finding it even better, although I haven't had a repeat viewing. Of course, one of the parameters for evaluation is comparison with earlier versions of Devdas, but it was meant to be that. The music gels wonderfully into the narration and is often used to take it forward. The characterizations were awesome (not being judgmental about how good or bad, or right or wrong they were but they were strongly written). The performanaces were superlative, but the movie belongs to Abhay Deol, methinks.

But, there are two things that worked for me nnd make me look at the movie differently -

- Dev D is mean. He is selfish. He is low on intelligence. He does not deserve any sympathy and this movie has shown that. The character is not a typical hero. He is NOT an anti-hero, but he is just another selfish individual whose life didn't go as per his whims and fancies.

(That was the real Devdas in Saratchandra Chattopadhyay's original novel as my friend, Dada also pointed out!)


- The ending where Dev D decides to give himself another chance- a ray of hope as Dev D gives himself an opportunity for redemption. Original Devdas was sad and sympathy provoking, but this is not.This is NOT a happy ending as such, but it ends on optimism. A bit open ended, but that works!

The movie is amazing. Love it or hate it. But you can't ignore it!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Soap and Economics

First few months in a FMCG industry is all about learning. This is true for almost every kind of industry. Or better still, you never cease to learn anywhere ... usually. But then, these learnings is not only about your work or general philosophical fundas pertaining to life, universe and everything.

Having been in FMCG industry for few months has thrown up a few learnings for me too. But weirdly, I think I think I have learned most about economics and few random bits about life in a rural-ish setting (bits of which I have been mentioned in few earlier posts few months ago.)

The economics I am mentioning is not all those complex equation, but few random common-sensical, observational stuff - a la The Under Cover Economist way.

- For example, so many different things are involved in making things work for a product (apart from people managing and researching on it), say a soap - host of vendors (for different species of raw materials, packaging materials), support materials like labels, stickers etc.,

- Different agencies involved - media planning agency, advertising agency, PR agency, design agency, printers etc.

- Businesses which survive on above like Media - TV, newspaper ... even internet.

- Different kinds of people involved in taking the products to the marketplace - transporter, guys at warehouse, distributor, salesman, retailer ... and all the company people employed to smoothen the process.

- Add few more things like consultants, accountants, auditors, market research agents, software developers which provide support organization in various forms

- And then support staff (as in canteen guy, janitor etc.) or the neighboring paan waalah, the puncture repair shop opposite to the office etc.

- Then there are guys like banks or various agencies who suck in the money of the ones above and pump it into the system.

- Then there are credit card guys who tell you to spend more and more, which is used to buy more and more and feed in other such companies (with different products and services) the above people put in their money to buy the same soap and similar stuff and so on ...

With so many different companies and businesses and so many interconnections ... imagine the scale ... and all the systems that keeps money flowing and the economy ticking ...

It might seem elementary, but it's amazing. But then, this is just an extremely small part of this whole complex system of economics!